Saturday evening was meant to be our anniversary celebration. Philippe and I were planning on grilling outside with our four daughters, ending the evening with s’mores around the firepit and an exchange of traditionally themed gifts (steel for year 11; I went with beverage bins). The kids were upstairs showering after our (sandy) beach afternoon. I hummed along to the music the girls had put on the stereo, grabbed the long, skinny lighter and headed outside to start the barbecue. I opened the (steel!) hood and placed the lighter on the ignition burner, and through the grates small, beady eyes looked up at me. I froze. A grayish-brown puff starting running wild around the inside of the grill, searching for an exit, making tiny scratching sounds that gave me the chills and basically made me want to scream. I didn’t, but only because I now I have kids and I can’t scare them. (This never-let-them-see-you-sweat instinct to put their needs before my own comes from parenting.)
I hollered upstairs to Philippe, doing my best to convey a sense of calm and confidence while infusing just enough controlled urgency so that he would run downstairs and catch the mouse before it ran into the house. (I think it’s understood that I didn’t close the back doors when I raced into the house?) But kids are smart and know when something’s up. They raced downstairs even faster than Philippe, screaming in half-fear, half-delight at the possibility of a mouse-in-house crisis. There was talk of keeping him and naming him Snowflake. (Did I mention he was dingy brownish gray?) Or maybe Cuddles. The girls jumped up on the couch, squealing out of fear that the mouse would run over their feet.
Philippe strode quickly and confidently out to the backyard and shut the doors behind him. (So that was confidence? Yep. I had botched it.) He chased the mouse out of the barbecue and toward the alley. The girls stood in the house, faces glued to the window, their little hands cupped around their eyes to block out the living room light so they could see their dad in action, saving the party. They were in awe, solemnly calling him “brave” and a “hero.” They meant it. Not just because of the mouse, but because he makes them (and me) feel safe and important. He fixes anything that breaks in the house, super-glues toys back together and dries little girls’ tears, downloads the right songs for the girls to choreograph dances, programs all of our remote controls (and turns on the TV when I can’t figure out how because the kids were playing music and somehow that ruins my ability to watch TV), chops the onions at Thanksgiving, and does the dishes every night so the girls and I have a few special moments getting into PJs. He takes the family dog out for walks, drives the girls to soccer practice or dance rehearsal (and watches), takes individual girls on one-on-one dates, even if it’s for a quick Starbucks trip for a Daddy-daughter strawberry Frappuccino), and turns chores into fun. He checks the girls’ homework folders every Monday night to remind them of the importance of education, quizzes them on math facts while hanging out at the pool and hangs up aced spelling tests on our family’s “Wall of Fame.” He carries the girls like potato sacks because they beg him to, he keeps the girls’ secrets, and makes them feel loved, special and worthy. He shows them by his actions the kind of man we hope they might marry (when they are 30 and allowed to date). And he gets the mouse out of the backyard and into the alley.
How do we begin to celebrate a man who gives us five women so much? This Sunday, I’ll bet we’ll start with a barbecue. I’ll ask Philippe to light the grill, just in case!
Here are some of Philippe’s favorite outdoor-barbecue recipe ideas for inspiration:
Anyone else barbecuing for Father’s Day?
(Photo courtesy of Kristen Vincent Photography)